Business management dissertation proposal

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Writing Your Management Dissertation or Project Report Writing Your Management Dissertation or Project ReportUniversity of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Writing Your Management Project Report The way your management dissertation or project report should be organised, formatted, structured and referenced is well-covered in the respective MA and MBA guidelines. However, this guide offers particular advice on how to prepare for writing and how to make your report more interesting, persuasive, and readable. The booklet is divided into three sections: 1. Writing your Management Dissertation or Project Proposal • A framework for writing the project proposal 2. Preparation for Writing the Main Report • Understanding what goes in the main body of the report – and why • The ‘5W and 1H’ Approach to project writing 3. Writing Tips • Ten writing tips • Proof-reading Plus How the Effective Learning Service can support individual students Suggested additional reading on this topic Appendix 1: Example of an introduction from a Masters project report Appendix 2: Example of a conclusion, from the same report Effective Learning Service 1University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report 1. WRITING THE DISSERTATION/MANAGEMENT PROJECT PROPOSAL You need to pick a project topic that is feasible, which means ‘do-able’ in the short time that you have. What is ‘feasible’? Many student project proposals are initially over- ambitious. They are often very wide-ranging in their focus and could present significant problems for students in collecting primary data. The best projects are those where: • The topic is of particular interest to you. • You can easily collect information – the information is readily available, or you can collect and analyse it easily, and within a short time period • The aim of the project is focused on a particular aspect of a chosen topic Example Not Feasible Feasible “The importance of the WTO rules “The impact of WTO rules governing governing exports for the future of the export of Chinese textiles to Chinese exports” Europe” (Too vague and over-ambitious) (The focus is on a particular commodity in a particular location, and the information will be readily available) Remember You must be able to complete the project given the time and resources that are available this may mean that: • Primary research will be difficult unless you have very good access to the people you want to obtain information from and you are sure that they will provide the information that you will need within the time. • In most cases, secondary research (desk research) will be the best option, using data already available and easily accessible. Effective Learning Service 2University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Getting Started OK, you have an idea for your project. Now you need to prepare a project proposal. The following offers a framework for preparing your Dissertation/Management Project proposal, and for discussion with your tutor or supervisor. Write in the spaces shown. What is the main aim of your research? Write just one or two sentences that summarise the overall objective of your project. Now identify specific research questions that flow from this main research aim. But first, ask yourself will you be able to find answers easily to them? Will you be able to get access to information that can lead to possible resolution of the questions raised? If ‘no’, then identify questions where information is more accessible. Don’t forget, this is a small scale research project, so you should aim to generate a manageable number of research questions. If you have more than three questions in mind, discuss these with your supervisor first. Question 1 Question 2 Question 3 Effective Learning Service 3University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Background What is the background to your interest in this topic area and in pursuing this research area? Summarise briefly the reasons why this topic is likely to be of interest to the business community - and to you. Literature Review In the literature review section of the proposal you outline what previous research has been done on the topic and how it has guided or informed your own research. You can engage with some or all of the following questions: Your notes What previous research has already been done on this topic? Who did it, when and, perhaps, why? Effective Learning Service 4University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report What conclusions did previous researchers reach? How relevant are these conclusions today generally and for your own research? How relevant are these conclusions today generally and for your own research? How will your research build on previous research? How is it similar or different? What theories, models or practices are particularly relevant to prepare or analyse your research topic and findings? How has previous research influenced your own intended research methodology and methods? Effective Learning Service 5University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Don’t forget The research topic, the research questions you intend to raise and previous work done on this topic, will influence your methodology; see next section. Methodology What methods do you intend to adopt to gather information in pursuit of answers to your research questions? Note down brief answers to the following questions: ¾ Where and how will you gather secondary data? Is it easily available? ¾ Where, how, and when will you gather primary data, if applicable? Remember, it may be difficult to gather primary data, and you may have to settle for analysing secondary, and more easily available data. Secondary data Primary data Effective Learning Service 6University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Types of research You also need to think about the overall theoretical nature of your research. This topic will have been presented and discussed in your Research Methods module, and is outlined in detail in most research methods text books. However, just to remind you of a few basic points: Types of research (your research proposal may contain more than one type): Exploratory Descriptive Analytical Predictive Exploratory research Descriptive research Analytical research The aim of is undertaken when can be used to often extends the Predictive research few or no previous identify and classify Descriptive approach is to speculate studies exist. The aim the elements or to suggest or explain intelligently on is to look for patterns, characteristics of why or how future possibilities, hypotheses or ideas the subject, e.g. something is based on close that can be tested number of days lost happening, e.g. analysis of available and will form the because of industrial underlying causes of evidence of cause basis for further action. industrial action. and effect, e.g. research. predicting when and Quantitative An important feature where future Typical research techniques are often of this type of industrial action techniques would used to collect, research is in locating might take place include case studies, analyse and and identifying the observation and summarise data. different factors (or reviews of previous variables) involved. related studies and data. Research approaches: Research can be approached in the following ways: 1. Quantitative/Qualitative 2. Applied/Basic 3. Deductive/Inductive See next two pages for more detail on these. Effective Learning Service 7University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report 1. Quantitative/Qualitative research Quantitative Qualitative The emphasis of Quantitative Qualitative research is more research is on collecting and subjective in nature than analysing numerical data; it Quantitative research and involves concentrates on measuring the examining and reflecting on the less scale, range, frequency etc. of tangible aspects of a research phenomena. subject, e.g. values, attitudes, perceptions. This type of research, although harder to design initially, is usually Although this type of research can highly detailed and structured and be easier to start, it can be often results can be easily collated and difficult to interpret and present the presented statistically. findings; the findings can also be challenged more easily. Many research projects combine a number of approaches, e.g. may use both quantitative and qualitative approaches 2. Basic/Applied research Basic Research: the primary aim is to improve knowledge generally, without any particular applied purpose in mind at the outset. Applied Research is designed from the start to apply its findings to a particular situation. Note: students at the school of Management are expected to engage with an applied research or problem solving research project, so it is most likely your research will fall into this category. Effective Learning Service 8University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report 3. Deductive/Inductive research Deductive Inductive General ideas Particular Situation Particular Situation General ideas Deductive research moves from general ideas/theories to specific Inductive research moves from particular & situations: the particular situations to make or particular is deduced from the infer broad general ideas/theories. general, e.g. broad theories. So, summarise your overall research approach in the space below, e.g. type of research; research approach. You can now move on to thinking about the time scale for this work. When you are thinking about the data collection stage, allow ample time for this, as if you are trying to arrange to talk to people, or gather data from questionnaires, it can take much longer than you think to organise. It can be notoriously difficult to contact busy people and agree a meeting time when both the researcher and interviewee are free. Busy people often put questionnaires to the bottom of their in-tray, so do not expect high responses from questionnaires. Effective Learning Service 9University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report 2. PREPARATION FOR WRITING THE MAIN REPORT Main Body of the Report Let us assume now, you have completed your research and you are ready to start writing the main report. It is important to understand what needs to go into your project and how it should be structured. This will form an important part of the discussion with your supervisor and each project will be approached in its own unique way. However, it helps if you are clear in your own mind on the purpose of each report section. The main body of your report will be sub-divided into sections. Each will have an introduction, a main body and a conclusion that leads the reader easily on to the next. The sections you might typically find in a project or dissertation report are, as follows: • Introduction • Background • Literature Review • Methodology • Results • Discussions • Conclusions Although all research reports will include engagement with all the broad sections described above, the sub-headings chosen will vary from one report to the next (see examples on page 5). Some sections may merge and be titled different to the sub-headings shown above. What should be included in these sections? Effective Learning Service 10University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Broad Sections Main Aim of Each Section The introduction to your report is very Introduction important – don’t be tempted to leave it to last. If you make this the first writing item, you immediately begin to focus on what you need to say and how you need to say it. Indeed, you should be thinking about what you want to say in your introduction at an early stage of your research. The introduction should shape the remainder of the report – not vice versa A good introduction sets the tone and direction of the report. It informs the reader what the research is about, presents the overall research objective and specific research questions – and why these have been selected and pursued. In particular, you need to make it clear what specific business related problem or issue is being addressed. What does your project contribute to address this particular problem or issue? What contribution do you hope to make to help business with the problem or issue you have identified and addressed? The introduction may also present and summarise the contents of the remaining sections to the reader. (See an example of an introduction to a Masters report, appendix item 1.) Background The background information puts your work Information into a particular social, commercial, theoretical or historical context and helps to explain the research. For example, if your project is centred on a particular company, you would describe the nature of the company and its organisation and then outline the background to the issue, situation or phenomena you were investigating. Effective Learning Service 11University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Literature Review A main aim of the literature review is to inform the reader what previous research has been done on the topic and how it has guided or informed your own research. For example, you may want to test or challenge findings from previous research, or approach your study from a different perspective. Or you may want to explore how relevant today are the conclusions reached from earlier studies both generally and for your own research? Methodology The methodology section informs the reader what overall research methodology you adopted – and why - and what research tools (or methods) you adopted to gain and analyse your result. It also describes the participants involved (how many/how they were selected/their characteristics etc). It is also an opportunity for you to present an objective reflection on the limitations of the methodology and methods used. This is important, as all research has its limitations and there is no shame in admitting this; indeed, it will be expected of you. Results The results section presents a summary of the data or other information you gathered. This section presents the data information without discussion of the implications of your findings - this goes into the next ‘Discussion’ section. Effective Learning Service 12University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Discussions This section presents analysis and discussions of the result, including implications, consequences and issues raised. It will also compare and contrast results with previous research findings, identified and discussed earlier in the Literature Review. If it is a project, it may also include recommendations, although these could go into a separate ‘Recommendations’ section if there are a significant number to be made. Conclusion ‘Every ending is a beginning’. It is the end of your report, but, hopefully, the beginning of positive contribution to knowledge or organisational change as a result of your work. This need not be on a grand scale; some of the best projects focus on affecting small but important changes within the business concerned. The conclusion to the report reminds the reader of the main aim of your research, your methodology, the findings and what this means for the business community or organisation studied. You are also likely to point out the limitations of your research findings and how future researchers might take your work a stage further. Finish well – leave the reader with something significant to think about. (See example of a conclusion from a Masters report, appendix item 2). Effective Learning Service 13University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Choose Appropriate Sub-headings Although all research reports will include engagement with the broad sections described on pages 2-4 of this booklet, the sub-headings chosen to label them will vary from one report to the next, according to which research approach has been chosen. The order in which the information is presented may also vary a little; see four post-graduate research report examples below: 1. Title: ‘Shopping in China – an 2. Title: ‘To Develop a Human Examination of Consumer Resource Competency Framework for Perception and Evaluation of the Manufacturing Operation of Branding Strategy of Wal-Mart in Dunlop Latex Foam Limited’ China’ Sub-headings in main body of this Sub-headings in main body of report this report: 1. Introduction 1. Introduction 2. Background: Human Resources 2. Literature Review within Dunlop Latex Foam 3. Background 3. Background: Competency and 4. Methodology Skills Framework 5. Survey Findings 4. Background: Delivering 6. Discussion and Strategic Aims Recommendation 5. Summary of Key Literature 7. Conclusion 6. Key Performance Measures 7. Identifying a Framework for Business 8. Business Benefits 9. Conclusions and Recommendations 3. Title: ‘Changing Personnel 4. Title: ‘A Knowledge Management Management? An assessment of the Strategy for a Leading Provider of E- personnel function leading business Commerce Related Services’ change in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises?’ Sub-headings in main body of this report: Sub-headings in main body of this report: 1. Introduction (which included sub-sections on background, 1. Introduction brief literature review and 2. Scrutinising the Personnel methodology) Function and the Search for 2. Interviews Status (a background 3. Interview Findings section divided into five sub- 4. Styles Survey sections) 5. Survey Findings 3. Methodology 6. Literature Search 4. Results 7. Evaluation of Strategic Options 5. Discussion 8. Recommendations 6. Report Conclusions Effective Learning Service 14University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report So, whilst all research projects will contain information that connect with the broad section categories outlined on pages 2-4, they may be included in an order best suited to assist the logical flow of ideas in the report. It may be necessary to sub-divide long sections into sub- sections (see examples 2, 3 and 4 on page 6) to make the information more accessible and readable. How to plan and approach writing each section? The ‘5w and 1h’ Approach to Project Writing This is a technique that can work effectively for students who need to become more analytical in assignments. It works by asking six interrogative questions of any theory, model, practice, or in this case, your research. It can be used as a guide to help you focus on information you may need to present in each section. Examples: WHO? Who: might benefit/be disadvantaged/is or is not involved/developed the idea? What: are we taking for granted/assumptions are we WHAT? making/ is implied that may not be true/ is missing/ is the background to this idea/is the wider significance/the advantages and negatives of the idea? WHERE? Where: can it be applied/would it not be applicable/else could it be relevant? WHY? Why: has this idea been developed/been introduced/should we pay any attention to it? WHEN? When: is the idea applicable/not applicable/reasonable or unreasonable to apply/should we start or stop? HOW? How: will the idea work in practice/be introduced/are people likely to react/will the idea be evaluated/we know or recognise success? Effective Learning Service 15University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Questions in Action The following grid and checklist will give you some examples of how these questions can be applied to each of the broad sections of a research report. These are just examples; not all will apply to your research and there may be other questions you need to ask. Section 5W and IH questions Checklist √ ¾ What was the overall subject of your research? Introduction ¾ What was the main aim of your research? ¾ What specific business related questions or issues did you address in your research? ¾ Why did you pursue these questions or issues in your research? ¾ Did you have any expectations of what you might find out at the start of your research? If so, what and why, and have these changed, and why? ¾ How is your report organised? What are the main features of each section of your report? ¾ What should the reader especially look out for in your report (i.e. key points)? ¾ What makes your research different to previous research? ¾ What are the main goods and services of any company involved? Background Information ¾ What is the historical/social/ economic background of any company or organisation researched? ¾ What are the values, culture or policies underpinning any organisation being researched? ¾ What is the background to the particular situation or phenomena examined? If relevant, why has a particular situation arisen? Effective Learning Service 16University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report ¾ What previous research has already been done on this topic? Who did it, when and why? Literature Review ¾ What conclusions did previous researchers reach? ¾ How relevant are these conclusions today generally and for your own research? ¾ How does your research build on previous research? How is it similar or different (e.g. similar/different models or methods used etc), ¾ Who are the principal commentators and theorists in the subject you researched? ¾ How has previous research influenced your research methodology and methods? Methodology ¾ What philosophical approach did you take to your research, e.g. Qualitative/Quantitative? Inductive/Deductive? ¾ Why did you adopt this approach? ¾ In retrospect was this the correct approach? ¾ What methods (to gather primary/secondary data) did you decide to use and why? ¾ What criteria did you adopt for collecting this data (e.g. target number, age, gender, occupational etc) and why? ¾ If relevant, who are the main people involved in the research and their roles and responsibilities? ¾ What was the target sample number? What type of sample was it, e.g. a random sample? ¾ What was the actual number you achieved? Why was there a shortfall? ¾ Where did you collect the data? When did you collect it? How did you collect it? ¾ Who was involved in the collection? ¾ How did you analyse it? What analytical method(s) did you apply to draw your results? ¾ What logistical or other problems did you encounter in collecting or analysing it? Effective Learning Service 17University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report ¾ What was the result of your findings? Results ¾ Were the results affected in any way by any event, situation or phenomenon? ¾ If there was a shortfall in the amount of data you gained, how have you compensated or dealt with this situation? ¾ How does the amount of data collected by you compare or contrast with previous research in this area of enquiry? ¾ What is the best way of presenting these results in the report? ¾ How do the findings connect with your overall research aim and research questions? Discussions ¾ What do the findings mean in theory and/or practice? ¾ How unexpected/expected were some or all of the findings? ¾ How can the findings be applied? ¾ When can they be applied? ¾ Who could apply them? ¾ What recommendations can you make based on your research findings? The introduction of your report was the place to tell the reader what you are going to say. The Conclusions conclusion is an opportunity to remind readers what you have told them This may sound trite, but in a long report it is important to do this, to remind the reader of important points you made earlier in the report. The conclusion pulls the threads of your research together and leaves you and the reader with a sense of accomplishment and finality. The concluding section therefore can contain the following answers to these questions: (continued…) Effective Learning Service 18University of Bradford, School of Management Writing Your Management Project Report Conclusions: ¾ What are the main aims and findings of your some research? questions to ¾ What are the practical or applied applications ask of your findings for others? ¾ What were the unexpected problems that arose and the limitations of the research? ¾ How future research might build on where you left off? ¾ What will be the last sentence you will write? Make it a good one. Example of a final sentence in a project report: At a recent lecture Sir John Harvey Jones remarked that people were led “…by example, rather than by exhortation”. A company’s knowledge management strategy fundamentally relies on the willingness of its people to share and to learn: such a culture is defined or denied by the actions of senior managers. The final sentence should try and capture what your research project has been about (in the example above, it was about knowledge management) and give the reader something to think about. Effective Learning Service 19

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